By MATT BROWN
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A commuter rail station could be built near the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport if a regional transportation panel allocates the funding today.
A Metropolitan Transportation Commission committee will decide on the $16.7 million request from Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit board.
On Monday, the Sonoma County Transportation Authority allocated $4.3 million for the project, which would extend the commuter rail service four miles north to Airport Boulevard when it opens in two years.
“Our board is interested in the last segment to Airport Boulevard,” said James Cameron, SCTA deputy director.
If the MTC Programming and Allocations Committee recommends funding the project, the full commission would have to vote on it next week, said John Goodwin, MTC spokesman. It is “highly unusual” for the commission to vote against a committee recommendation, he said.
“Once it passes the committee, it’s first and goal at the one,” he said.
The MTC approved $11.7 million for the project in January, and its action today would allocate that money plus an additional $5 million. MTC funds come from bridge tolls.
“There are a lot of moving parts to this,” said Carolyn Glendening, SMART spokeswoman. “We’re hopeful the committee will approve the request.”
With the funding in place, the SMART board could approve an airport station at its meeting next week, officials said.
A station near the airport would serve Sonoma County travelers, especially once a project to expand the runway to accommodate larger jets is completed next year.
Officials hope that project will attract more commercial airlines with flights to eastern destinations. The airport currently serves Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles and San Diego.
SMART trains are scheduled to run in 2016 between Guerneville Road in Santa Rosa and San Rafael. The rail authority has some of the funding in place to extend the track south to the Larkspur ferry. Eventually, the line is planned to run north to Cloverdale, although the funding for that segment and its timing is uncertain.
“Consistent with the board’s direction, we are actively looking at funding to go north and south,” Glendening said. “(The airport) is an interesting location for a station. This would get us farther north.”
Last month, the SMART board awarded Shimmick Construction of Oakland a $68 million contract that includes building an operations and maintenance facility on a 5-acre parcel at the intersection of Airport Boulevard and the railroad tracks.
Officials would like to build a station adjacent to the facility, about a mile from the passenger terminal at the airport. A shuttle would likely be required to ferry passengers from the train to the airport.
In a letter to the MTC, state Sen. Noreen Evens, D-Santa Rosa, lobbied for funding for the airport extension.
“Connecting the North Bay by rail transit to the Sonoma County Airport and the employment center in the area surrounding the airport continues to be critically important to the economic health of the region,” she wrote.
You can reach Staff Writer Matt Brown at 521-5206 or firstname.lastname@example.org.